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Christ who is the father of the everlasting age: how shall we fill up the long chasm between Melchizedek and Christ? The priesthood had clearly commenced, when Melchizedek blessed Abraham: Christ ariseth another priest, that is to say, a priest different from a Levitical priest, after the similitude of Melchizedek. Now, if Melchizedek were a mere man typical of Christ, his order was not eternal when reckoned from its commencement for where shall we find a line of successors to him, distinct both from the Patriarchal and the Levitical priests, by which we are at length brought in a regular series to the Messiah? The interval plainly cannot be filled up: and yet the priesthood is declared to be eternal. Such being the case, it cannot be eternal on the ground of its comprehending an eternal succession of individuals from the time of its first institution for this supposition stands directly contradicted by history. It must therefore be eternal, on the ground of its highpriest being eternal. But, if it be eternal on this ground, then it is manifestly incapable of admitting any more than a single high-priest: for, if a person be its high-priest through all eternity prospectively from its first institution, it assuredly can never comprehend any second high-priest. Hence it will follow, that the sole priest of this mysterious order must needs be Christ himself. Yet Melchizedek, who blessed Abraham, is declared to have been a priest of the same order: and, what is
Isaiah ix. 6.
more, the very order itself is called after his name. The result therefore must be, that Christ and Melchizedek are one person, and that the order of Melchizedek is truly the order of Christ.
Accordingly, this result will account, with admirable concinnity, for the otherwise extraordinary and inexplicable assertion, that Christ was a priest for ever after the order of Melchizedek. If Melchizedek had been a mere sacerdotal regulus in the land of Canaan, or even if he had been the greatest and most illustrious among the sons of men; it were still most harsh and unseemly to designate the order, of which Christ was a priest, by the name of a weak and erring mortal. In that case, it were clearly more natural to have said, that Melchizedek was a priest after the order of Messiah, than that Messiah was a priest after the order of Melchizedek. But let us suppose Melchizedek to have been a corporeal appearance of the divine sacerdotal Word, and the whole difficulty vanishes. Christ is then a priest for ever after his own order, which by its very constitution admits only of a single priest. The order itself I suppose to have commenced in time, though it extends into a boundless eternity. Its divine highpriest indeed, the same yesterday and to day and for ever, exists, as the Word of God, from everlasting to everlasting. But his sacerdotal office commenced with the oblation of the first typical victim when he instituted the rite of sacrifice immediately after the fall; and when he clothed the apostate but repentant pair with the skins of
the slaughtered animals, thus symbolically shewing the need of our being clothed with the robes of the true victim's righteousness.
The words Melchizedek and Salem have usually been deemed proper names: whence, Salem being pronounced to be Jerusalem, Melchizedek has been determined to be the petty prince of that city. With such an opinion, the belief, that he was a corporeal though temporary manifestation of the Angel of Jehovah, is plainly inconsistent: for it is scarcely credible, that the Divine Word should have permanently reigned in the earthly Jerusalem. Hence I conceive, that the terms are not proper, but common, names; and that, in a translation of the history as detailed by Moses, they ought to have been expressed by the corresponding terms of the language into which the passage was rendered.
This seems to be intimated not obscurely by St. Paul: for he remarks, that the titles MelchiZedek and Melech-Salem denote, when interpreted, King of righteousness and King of peace.' Now, had these been mere proper names, compounded indeed like Jotham or Zedekiah, but no way peculiarly descriptive or characteristic: I see not, why any importance should be attached to their literal signification, more than to the literal signification of various other parallel names. The word Jotham imports the perfection of Jehovah; and the word Zedekiah denotes the righteousness of Jehovah :
1 Heb. vii. 2.
but no one ever thought of translating these appellations, with a view of intimating, that the persons so denominated bore them as mystically expressive of their own special characters. Why then should St. Paul so anxiously insist upon the meaning of Melchi-Zedek and Melech-Salem? It were quite beside his purpose to do this, if the appellations were mere accidental proper names, like Jotham and Zedekiah. To render the apostle at all consistent with himself, we are evidently compelled to esteem them, not proper names, but titles analogical to Immanuel. The Divine Word is called Immanuel: not that he familiarly bore such a title, as his ordinary compellation while incarnate upon earth; but because, in point of character, he was God with us. He is likewise called Jehovah-Zedeknu or (as the name is well expressed in the Greek) Josedek: not that he was ever so addressed or denominated in the common intercourse of life; but because, by nature and by office, he was Jehovah our righteousness. Just in the same manner, I suppose him to have been intitled Melchi-Zedek and Melech-Salem: not that there was ever any prince named Melchizedek, who reigned synchronically with Abraham in the city of Jerusalem; but because these appellations are descriptive of his character, for (as St. Paul remarks) they denote by interpretation King of righteousness and King of peace. Accordingly, in special reference (if I mistake not) to the very titles now before us, we are told, that a King
shall reign in righteousness, and that the promised Child shall be denominated the Prince of peace." The whole notion, in short, of there being an ancient king of Jerusalem called Melchizedek, has plainly arisen from the circumstance of two descriptive titles not having been translated but on the contrary having been set down as proper names. Had the original Hebrew been rendered, as St. Paul teaches us it ought to have been, analogically to various other passages of a similar description; that is to say, had Melchi-Zedek and Melech-Salem been literally translated the King of righteousness and the King of peace, just as Josedek and Sar-Salom and Melech-Acchabod are literally translated the Lord our righteousness and the Prince of peace and the King of glory: the existence of a Canaanitish or Philistèan or Shemite prince, conspicuously superior in dignity even to Abraham, would probably have never been heard of. Let us then so render the Mosaical narrative, and we shall immediately perceive both the drift and the cogency of the apostle's inspired exposition.
The King of righteousness, even the King of peace, brought forth bread and wine: and he was the priest of the Most High God. And he blessed him, and said: Blessed be Abram of the Most High God, possessor of heaven and earth; and blessed be the Most High God, which hath deli
Isaiah xxxii. 1. ix. 6.